The Paddy Power Gold (2.30pm, Cheltenham, Saturday) is the highlight of the three-day Open meeting and, as usual, has attracted a maximum field of 20 runners. However, we’ve dug a little deeper into the form and produced what we think is an excellent value-for-money selection.
Johns Spirit (6/1) was promoted to favouritism for the Paddy Power Gold Cup on the strength of a ready three-length win in a handicap, over 2 miles 4 furlongs, at Cheltenham four weeks ago. The Gold Well gelding won over 2m4½f at Sandown last season, so should have no problem with an extra half a furlong. More of a worry is the fact that he steps up in class off a 10lb higher mark. As a six-year-old he obviously has time on his side, but was regularly beaten off marks in the 130s during his novice season and may now be too high in the weights.
Champion Court (13/2) has come in for solid support after some bullish remarks by trainer Martin Keighley and is hard to ignore, despite being off the course since beating Menorah by threequarters of a length in the Silver Trophy Chase, over 2m5f, at Cheltenham last April. In fact he has won three times over 2m5f around Cheltenham and was second on good going in the Jewson Novices’ Chase, over 2m4f in 2012. He had his sights lowered slightly, off a mark just 2lb higher than when winning the Silver Trophy Chase so, an absence of 213 days aside, has plenty in his favour.
Ballynagour (8/1) landed a major gamble when heavily eased to win by 19 lengths on his debut for David Pipe at Warwick last February. Although only eighth, beaten 33 lengths, behind Carrickboy in the Byrne Group Plate at the Cheltenham Festival, he has been heavily backed for this race. The Pipe stable rarely leaves its money behind, but the Shantou gelding remains 20lb higher in the weights than when winning at Warwick and has done all his winning on soft ground. The going at Cheltenham is currently good, with drying conditions forecast.
Rajdhani Express (10/1) has won three of his five completed starts over fences, including a decent novices’ handicap chase over course and distance at the Cheltenham Festival last March. He acts well on good going, as he proved when trouncing Tap Night in the Future Champion Novices’ Chase at Ayr last April. He is actually 1lb better off with Tap Night (14/1), despite finishing 15 lengths ahead of Lucinda Russell’s charge at Ayr, so is arguably very well handicapped. That said, he is 15lb higher in the weights than when last winning a handicap, so may not be one to go overboard about.
The second of Nicky Henderson’s entries, Nadiya De La Vega (12/1), finished third, beaten 15 lengths, behind Al Ferof in this race last year and, despite winning at Fairyhouse in April, lines up this year off a mark just 3lb higher. She’s won on good and good to soft going, so should have underfoot conditions in her favour, but it’s interesting that she’s been forsaken not only by J.P. McManus’ retained jockey A.P. McCoy, in favour of Tap Night, but also by Nicky Henderson’s stable jockey Barry Geraghty, in favour of Finian’s Rainbow (14/1).
In a race with so many runners and so early in the season, it doesn’t pay to be dogmatic. However, Conquisto (20/1) recorded a career-best effort when beating Astracad (25/1) by 1¼ lengths in the Old Roan Chase at Haydock three weeks ago and is entitled to improve for that run, his first since May. A 4lb rise in the weights for that success means that he meets Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge on 3lb worse terms, but he has a progressive profile and should be able of confirming the form. He appears to act on any ground and, while he has his stamina to prove over 2m4½f on a stiffer track, he looks well worth chancing at his current odds.
Paddy Power Gold Cup Preview Betting Tips Verdict